5 Things Virtual Reality Is Fixing (That Aren't Broken)
Not long ago I praised the virtual reality industry for its attempts to bring a little innovation to things that had no pressing need for a VR upgrade. Expect a lot of that in the coming years, assuming virtual reality takes hold and becomes the game-changing tech The Lawnmower Man promises us it will be.
Namely, that everyone with a mental disability will become a corrupt digital god.
If it all pans out, there will be a VR version of everything. Everything. Including things that have no business being in virtual reality and are hardly improved by it. The kinds of things that suck in regular reality and can only go downhill with the virtual treatment. For those who are wondering if some brave, handsome person out there took the time to gather five examples of such things and arrange them into some manner of comedic list, worry not, for I have done just that.
Watch Netflix In A Fake Living Room Like A Real Idiot
We're at the point with technology where, if I were to release a fancy high-tech blender, people would look at it, confused, wondering why they can't binge-watch House Of Cards on it. In a few years, when you find yourself on the losing end of a bar brawl, you'll be able to catch a few episodes of Frasier on the bottom of the boot stomping your face. "Was that a Maris joke? Kick me again!"
"No Netflix? Ugh! Philistin-BAAAHMYFACE."
A thing without Netflix is hardly a thing at all; it's barely even stuff. So it's no surprise that the Oculus Rift has a Netflix app. Netflix VR isn't just a streaming video smashed up against your eyes or some Lovecraftian method of actually making you a part of Adam Sandler's next contractually obligated movie. That's too easy. The technology's powers of unparalleled immersion must be justified! So, instead, it shoves you in front of a large screen in a fake living room, sitting on a fake couch behind a fake coffee table.
There's a good chance people will be watching a show in these fake living rooms in front of these fake TVs while sitting in their real living rooms in front of their real TVs. The future will be dominated by stupid redundancies like this because we always prefer a souped-up simulation over an easily accessible and nearly identical authentic experience.
What would you rather play? Golf, or a cute low-stakes approximation of golf?
According to reviews, the app works well, even if it is dumb and unnecessary. All that's going to do is encourage app developers to VR every inconsequential moment in life. Someone might even find a way to VR something as mundane as eating at home.
Eat Anywhere Virtually Without Leaving Your Boring-Ass House
Oh, Goddammit. See? What did I just say? They went and VR'ed my Pop Tarts and gin.
You dine on the first course of the meal in a garden in Tuscany, surrounded by flowers with a winery in the distance. You adjust your Samsung Gear VR glasses as a cool wind blows and you catch the rich fragrance of the gardens. But when your main course arrives, you find yourself underwater with dolphins playing and fish swimming.
All that crazy garbage up there is Samsung's attempt at fusing virtual reality with eating. Why settle for another lonely dinner in your chilly basement surrounded by your knives and collection of human index fingers when you can strap a phone to your face and eat cold ravioli from the can in the mythical underwater city of Atlantis?
Dine among the fish farts, you loser.
But why stop at the setting? We can apply the same idea to dinner itself in yet another desperate attempt to flee reality like it's a cop and we've got priors. A group called Project Nourished wants to get people eating bland 3D-printed food gelatin while images projected by VR goggles trick the eater's brain into thinking they're eating something with actual flavor. This is how Soylent Green-type food made of people is going to be subtly introduced into our diets. We've got our masks, so we think we're eating a gorgeously marbled Wagyu rib-eye with a side of lobster mac and cheese covered in freshly shaved black truffles, and we won't even notice the hair and loose scrotal tissue sticking out of the gelatinous people cubes we're shoving into our mouths.
The rumble feature on a video game controller seemed weird at first, back when Nintendo released a vibration cartridge that plugged into the Nintendo 64's controller like a gun clip. It broke down the barrier between the player and the game. Actions now had a corresponding physical sensation. When you got shot in the game, you suffered a very mild finger massage in real life. Finally the consequences of gaming had a face. That tech doesn't just want to be felt anymore. It wants to beat the shit out of you.
German researchers have created a prototype for a physical feedback rig for virtual reality games that makes the player feel an impact force so powerful it can kick their arms back like people who get knocked out by gun recoil ...
Just without the gun. The force comes from a combination of vibrations and electrical muscle stimulation, feeling like the light electrolysis you'd be treated with during physical therapy but looking more like if you stuck a fork into an electrical outlet. This might one day bring a whole new dimension of realism to virtual reality games, but if that doesn't work out, I'll use it to pioneer the tele-S&M industry and erotically punish people from thousands of miles away.
"Be with you in a sec, hon. Just let me get this guy off first."
The U.S. Army wants to ramp up the pain dished out by this kind of tech to make virtual (and, soon, holographic) combat simulations more realistic. If a soldier in VR gets shot or is close to an explosion they will feel those gunshots and explosions. The idea is to get them used to making tough, spur-of-the-moment decisions while dealing with the physical agony of the battlefield. Now if we can just develop a thing that simulates the pain of having their VA medical insurance claims ignored when they get back home, then they'll be fully prepared to handle all the pain a soldier has to manage.
And since I'm getting political ...
Engage In Pointlessly Immersive Political Debates
In my previous column about virtual reality, I briefly mentioned the work of NextVR, a media company that wants to bring live events like concerts and NBA games to virtual reality. I even extrapolated from there and imagined a future where we're all virtually sitting on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl from the comfort of our homes. Until NextVR can reel in that HGH-fueled whale, we have to settle for a bunch of dipshit politicians yelling talking points over each other ... in virtual reality!
*That song from the lobby shootout scene in The Matrix*
Did you watch the first democratic presidential debate in virtual reality? Did you even know that was a possibility? Well, NextVR made that happen, and you didn't miss much. Turns out politicians are no more trustworthy when you've got an unwieldy mask on your face that puts you so close to the action you can practically smell the demon eating their innards every time they open their maws.
The technology for live-streaming virtual reality experiences will no doubt improve in time, but when a writer from Wired watched the VR version of the debate back in October 2015, he thought everything looked fake, a little too glossy, and not quite tangible. He compared it to sitting through a show at Disney's Hall Of Presidents -- just a bunch of robots spitting out worn-out catchphrases. In other words, he watched a presidential debate. Zing!
Ensure You Never Want To Fly Again With VR Airplane Safety Demos
For those who have ever felt a little guilty for having ignored a flight attendant's water-landing-safety lecture, don't worry. We might one day live in a world where we can experience a virtual reality simulation of that lecture wherein you, the passenger, are on a virtual plane that crashes into the ocean and you have to put on your flotation device and escape before you sink down to your watery tomb. By the end of it, you'll gladly put up with the armpit stank and ass fumes of all the other C.H.U.D.s on a cross-country Greyhound bus as long as it means you won't plummet into the ocean from 18,000 feet.
According to the text at the end of the demo reel above, a study has shown that a "virtual experience produces better knowledge retention" than any pamphlet or flight attendant's unenthusiastic safety vest inflation pantomime ever could. Makes sense. But what if the simulation is too good and all it ends up doing is training people to inadvertently chum the waters with their beefy fear turds? What then, VR? You ever try to play Marco Polo in a fear turd pool? Virtually impossible.
For now, this is just a demo from a university lab. But who knows? It could very well be the future of airline safety lectures. Or even the future of in-flight entertainment. Imagine, just before takeoff, VR goggles drop down from the ceiling the way oxygen masks do in movies when the plane is going down. Before you can zone out and watch sitcom reruns for three hours, you have to try not to rupture your neighbor's ear drums as you attempt to survive a fake water landing in Loch Ness with special guest star Gilbert Gottfried as the voice of the monster eating you.
Did you imagine it? Great. Now imagine a plane full of people doing this slack-jawed hand-waving shit ...
We're all going to look like assholes in the future.
Luis is looking like an asshole in the present. You can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and on Facebook.
Which Sci-Fi Trope Would You Bring To The Real World, And Why? Every summer, we're treated to the same buffet of three or four science fiction movies with the same basic conceits. There's man vs. aliens, man vs. robots, man vs. army of clones, and man vs. complicated time travel rules. With virtual reality and self-driving cars fast approaching, it's time to consider what type of sci-fi movie we want to be living in for the rest of our lives. Co-hosts Jack O'Brien and Adam Tod Brown are joined by Cracked's Tom Reimann and Josh Sargent and comedians David Huntsberger, Adam Newman, and Caitlin Gill to figure out which sci-fi trope would be the best to make a reality. Get your tickets to this live podcast here!
See how virtual reality can help you choose your stadium seat in 5 Mundane Things Virtual Reality Is About To Make Awesome, and check out what's stopping us from watching virtual sex in 4 Ways Virtual Sex Will Be More Embarrassing Than Real Sex.
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